Pedro Pascal on Making ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ Growing Up in the ’80s, and Shooting That Other ‘WW’ Project
When Pedro Pascal was offered the role of Max Lord in "Wonder Woman 1984", he had worked almost continuously since his breakout performance as Oberyn Martell on "Game of Thrones". In just a few years, the Chile-born actor went from filming the Netflix series "Narcos" to the action franchises "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" and "The Equalizer 2" to a memorable (and uncredited) cameo - Developed appearance in the acclaimed drama "If Beale Street Could Talk." When he landed in Hawaii for preproduction of the Netflix thriller "Triple Frontier", Pascal was "a little tired of work" in his words. But the opportunity to be directed by Patty Jenkins as the main villain in a huge superhero movie was just too tempting to miss.
With reviews highlighting Pascal's performance - "This year wasn't a lot of reasons to just smile, but every second of Pedro Pascal's performance got me excited," said Mike Ryan of Uproxx - "Wonder Woman 1984" could catapult the star off one of the other standout hits of the year, "The Mandalorian", to even greater career heights.
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In this excerpt from Pascal's interviews for Variety's cover story about the actor in October, the 45-year-old revealed, via Zoom, the surprising method with which he attacked the role of Max Lord, a self-described "television personality and businessman" whose The Desperate Urge For Constant success brings him into conflict with Diana Prince of Gal Gadot. Pascal also spoke about his childhood consuming American pop culture, his appreciation for Jenkins' 80s aesthetic for "WW84" and his first experiences with a "Wonder Woman" project: David E. Kelley's unfortunate TV pilot in 2011.
Maxwell Lord in the comics has a very storied story, one of those vicious characters that weaves in and out of many different storylines. Were you familiar with all of this when you got the role?
No i didn't know I think when I started doing research it started ringing a little bell. But my first introduction to the character was Patty's and Geoff's script, and the character's type had such a specific vision that he's in this Wonder Woman narrative. And then I began to understand the various generational versions of Max Lord and which ones to lean into. Obviously in this case the 80s version is brilliant in this, as you know, ...
[Pascal looks at his table and his eyes widened. He takes a bound copy of his screenplay "Wonder Woman 1984", which he turned into a scrapbook filled with photocopies of Max Lord from the comics that Pascal manipulated on the character through his lens.]
Oh my god, it's sitting right next to me. Look, I promise you I didn't plan this. But strangely enough, I just got it from the warehouse. I remember feeling a little tired of work when I went to Wonder Woman, but I also knew that you can't be tired working with Patty, or use that fatigue and push it to its limits there is always this kind of susceptible to working with her. It's like the best way to challenge. I loved it. But one of the practical ways I focused on was turning my script into some kind of ridiculous book. I had it literally like limited.
[Pascal flashes some of the pages in the scrapbook, including a page with Max surrounded by text bubbles in which Pascal kept writing in tiny letters, "You're a bloody piece of shit."]
Oh wow Did you write all this?
Yes. It's just a way of sitting and meditating on it. You know what I mean?
Was this a character exercise for you or was it an artistic exercise?
It was more of a process exercise where I realized that there is nothing that I always do. What put me off the best was that I saw a real creative challenge that isn't exactly what you would expect if you were to make a superhero movie. And so I knew that in the end you would have to make big decisions and in some cases cut your ass off. I feel like I had to wake myself up big again. And this was just a practical way, instead of going home tired and putting Netflix on or something, it was like actually getting into that physical thing, doodling and thinking about it and doing it.
From what you've said, and what Patty Jenkins said about that part, it's fair to assume that what you do on "The Mandalorian" comes to an end if we talk about one point of view from the acting spectrum. and what you do as Max Lord is very much on the other side.
Yes. And yet in a way just as much a mask - more than I'm used to.
This movie is set in the 80s and there is a certain kind of great acting that was being played in big studio blockbusters at the time, from the Christopher Superman films “Superman” to something like “Robocop,” where the bad guys are especially big were .
Good example, I love Robocop.
How much did you think about your own childhood, watching all these films with your family, when you were working out this showing?
I don't know if we're almost the same age ...
OK. Well, if you're still further into my forties, I'm trapping myself a little bit too much and feeling nostalgia. Regarding Patty's vision, she wanted to capture the experience of our child's imagination, which felt so limitless - and was shaped by all the things that surrounded us in terms of television, cinema, and style. I wasn't a kid who wasn't allowed to watch TV. I wasn't a kid who wasn't allowed to do all of the things that adorn the experience of this movie. I was a sponge for everything. I was literally raised and shaped by it to some extent. Which I couldn't necessarily relate to the interpretation of the character. I think they are two completely separate things. But I understood her thoughts and that was exciting. That was a real wave to ride. So all I had to do was make a fucking coloring book and follow their direction.
What was it like growing up in San Antonio and absorbing all that pop culture?
I really loved it. For one thing, San Antonio is very, very multicultural. It really is all of Texas. Being a South American - although everything can be so different - still has such a connection for the Latino community. My direct influence, even before I started visiting Chile on a regular basis, was that of Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. I was in public schools there and I wasn't doing very well. I've been in a lot of trouble. I just remember school being a nightmare until high school where the subjects got a little bit more interesting I think.
Were you just restless and not paying attention?
I guess. But summer would hit, and there were no limits - it just seemed like absolute magic at the time. Lots of babysitters on TV when there wasn't a babysitter. VHS rental. I went through TV Guide trying to find the horror movies at a point where my parents were already sleeping and I was just watching to scare myself with such low volume. Have you taken to the multiplex to play video games and watch multiple runs of Poltergeist. My mother didn't know. She says, "That looks scary, I don't know." And I said, "It's PG!"
When did you decide to become an actor?
I knew that early on. So much so that I remember lying to kids and telling them I was on The Lost Boys. Christian Bale's silhouette on a poster for Empire of the Sun and the kids in Poltergeist when I was in San Antonio, and Henry Thomas in ET, about the same age - it's just as if i want to live these stories too. So it started like this. Then it is actually something that you can do in a practical way that satisfied my parents. It took the place of swimming as an after-school activity and kept me out of the damn house because I wanted to watch TV all day.
One of the most enjoyable things I found in my research was that you starred in the 2011 David E. Kelley-produced television pilot "Wonder Woman," starring Adrianne Palicki.
You're right. Ed Indelicato, LAPD detective.
Is he like Diana Prince's friend?
He was her connection to the LAPD.
How was that experience with this show?
It was like a dream come true. David E. Kelley's influence on television when I graduated from college was so great that I watched every episode of Friday Night Lights. I also thought whether it was good or not it would definitely be picked up. That would change my financial situation significantly, even if it were half a season before it was canceled. But it wasn't even picked up. I went back to the procedure, you know, "CSI" and stuff. Had a pretty bad year after that, interested in very sporadic work.
When Wonder Woman 1984 came out, you wondered if you knew you made this pilot?
It actually didn't cross my mind, which is kind of crazy. You must either not have known or cared about. Yes. I'm not sure, but it's like some anecdotal thing that completely passed them by.
How did Max Lord come to you?
[Whispers] It was a goddamn offer. It's not going to happen again. I made a brilliant pilot with Patty, written by Charles Randolph entitled "Exposed" with this incredible cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ben Barnes, Brían F. O'Byrne, Fran Kranz. It was so well written and went unnoticed, but I had to work with Patty for about three days and then thought I would never see her again.
That was in ...?
That was in 2014. I shot it before Game of Thrones aired. I was a real Patty Jenkins fan. And I didn't even know she remembered it. Then I worked with [producer] Chuck Roven on "Triple Frontier". He was the first to call me. I didn't really get that Patty wanted to talk to me about a role I was going to play, not this role I had to get. I couldn't calculate that. I couldn't quite accept that. And so I talked to him. And then I talked to her. And then they flew me from Hawaii to London to meet them and hang out with Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, and Jan Sewell, the makeup artist, and do the portrait of this character. It was amazing. I hadn't even read the script yet. Patty was frustrated that it hadn't reached me before we sat down to talk. I didn't care. I didn't care at all.
You just mentioned that you believe an offer for a role like this will ever be offered again. Why do you think that
I think [pause] because [pause] it felt so special. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I've ever had, with a cast, with a director, with a crew, with a role.
This interview was summarized and edited from two conversations.
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